11 December 2020

Why companies should question their bookshelves

Nick Ford-Young

The information we choose to consume will inevitably inspire the direction that our lives take.

Having little prior experience in Marketing and Communications before starting as an intern at Boldspace earlier this year; my introduction to the industry was essentially choosing a few industry bibles to get started.

This experience made me acutely aware of the fact that if companies are trying to foster a culture of inclusion and diversity, they must acknowledge that these values should be woven into the foundation and fabric of their brand. Boldspace was founded in May this year, and we have had many a conversation recognising the importance of baking in these values from the offset, with one particular discussion centring around acknowledging that the small details count. One of these details is how you learn, and equally, who you learn from.

What is the point of reading?

In its simplest form, the answer can be boiled down to two similar (but separate) reasons; to both immerse yourself in and learn from another’s experience.

A reading list with a diverse set of books and articles from people of different backgrounds at different levels of their career will allow employees of any level to do both. It will give those at a junior level a stronger grasp of the industry they are entering, as well as a deeper understanding of the positions and career trajectories to which they may be most suited.

At some point throughout this learning process the readers should be able to see their own life experiences echoed within the narratives, and know that they too can carve their own professional path, whatever their race, ethnicity, sexual or gender identity, disability, religion, or socio-economic background may be.

When it comes to works authored by people mid-way through their career, for those climbing the ladder or at a similar position, this reading could provide the tools to navigate and handle any current challenges.

Additionally, for those at C-level, works of such a kind might even be key to staying ahead of the pack through foresight into the direction in which this future generation of directors see the market moving and how they hope to mould the industry for the better.

In the notable words of Harry Truman; “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Listening is often cited as the most important skill to master as a leader; and reading is simply a form of listening – affording your attention to someone else’s experience.

If leaders ensure they are regularly learning about the encounters of both senior and junior level people of varied backgrounds and experiences, they will create for themselves a direct pipeline of insights into how to better organise an inclusive company.

This in turn will allow them to better reflect upon their own companies and guarantee that, primarily, they are creating a safe and motivating working environment for all their employees. Secondly, this understanding will enable them to implement better crisis management strategies, appropriately mitigate any issues that do arise, and hopefully avoid them altogether.

Through frequent reading about the experiences of other senior figures of distinct backgrounds, leaders will be able to develop a more nuanced understanding of their industry. It will encourage them to challenge their own preconceived notions of the same industries they have made their mark upon.

Furthermore, for those at any point of their career, digesting content that challenges your preconceptions will inevitably drive creativity.

Many innovative solutions to briefs or internal concerns derive from thinking outside the box and rewiring how you look at a problem. Taking on a book or article that confronts your viewpoint can force you to do this and may have a substantial impact on your ability to think critically, creatively, and logically.

Not only in this sense does it drive creativity but taking on long-form texts such as books will afford the reader a moment in time.

For younger generations in particular, it is rare in this digital age that we find the time and space to focus on one thing and reflect upon it without distraction. Completing a book will often mean carving out time to do so and as such, giving yourself the opportunity to spend time with the thoughts that this reading may have invoked. Fundamentally, long-form reading allows you the time to think; it is a catalyst for growth.

So be it for yourself, your team, or incoming graduates, I believe all businesses should encourages employees to question the company bookshelves and analyse the sources of the information that they are consuming.

Boldspace has recently implemented compulsory, personal learning and development half-days every month, for every team member – setting the tone for the culture that they want to develop here. We are encouraged to capitalise upon that time by getting offline which gives us the space to get invested in the process, and then reflect upon the information we have learnt and later update the team on any key insights.

Allowing set time at work for reading should be rudimentary, not exceptional, and companies that fail to promote an environment in which their employees feel they are encouraged to do so will most likely regret it in time.